Featuring all the characters from Charles Schulz' timeless cartoon, "Peanuts," Westfield Summer Stage will present "Snoopy! — The Musical."
Shows are Thursday, July 11, at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, July 12, at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Westfield High. Tickets are $5; call 703-488-6430 for reservations.
Some 75 students are involved in this delightful children's musical, and director Lori Knickerbocker, says all the cast and crew members are doing a fantastic job. "It's a great show because it's an ensemble piece about children working together as a team," she said. "There's no star — everyone's important."
Westfield High's theater director Scott Pafumi is technical director. Also helping are parent volunteers and students Pat Mitchell, assistant director; Jackie Hansen, stage manager and Kristen McDermott and Daniel Triggs, technicians.
The 90-minute show is appropriate for children of all ages. It has a mix of middle- and high-school students, and Knickerbocker likes it because the high-school students mentor the middle-school ones, to everyone's benefit.
Playing Charlie Brown is Derek Rommel, 15. Charlie Brown just wants to be accepted, but he's shy and quiet and people make fun of him. His best friend is security-blanket-toting Linus.
"I read pretty much every Peanuts cartoon there is, and I've watched 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' every Christmas, so it's fun to actually be him," said Rommel. "In real life, I'm kinda loud and obnoxious, so it's kinda hard to be the quiet, timid guy. I like the few moments when Charlie Brown actually gets mad."
Portraying the irrepressible Snoopy is Barry Armbruster, 14. "Snoopy's eccentric, and he takes on different [imaginary] roles," said Armbruster. "He's very vain. In the story, he's trying to be a great writer. Nobody likes his writing, but he won't accept it. He thinks he's the best ever — he's in his own, little world."
Armbruster really enjoys the role because "I can just go wild. In my opening song and can hop around, bark at the birds and pretend I'm a jungle animal." And he's excited to get to sing "three whole songs" in the show. Said Armbruster: "I think the little kids [in the audience] will walk away learning something new about life, and the adults will think [the musical] is entertaining and cute."
Reaves McElveen, 16, plays Snoopy's scatterbrained bird-buddy, Woodstock. "I like him because he's the comic relief in the show," he said. "A bunch of younger actors play his bird friends, 'Woodstockians,' and I can teach them the basics of theater and the discipline of acting."
In one scene, he said, they play fake, air instruments and pretend they're a band. The best part, said McElveen, is that "I get to make a bunch of funny faces. Children's shows are not as serious as high-school theater — you're just having fun."
Megan Henry, 15, plays the ever-opinionated Lucy. "She thinks she's wonderful, beautiful and basically perfect, but she's not," said Henry. "She bosses everyone around and is really mean to Charlie Brown."
She likes her role, though, because "I'm not that way in real life." However, although she enjoys yelling and throwing tantrums during the show, she said, "It's hard to be mean to people who are my friends."
Portraying Charlie Brown's kid sister Sally is Meghan Bartnick, 14. "He's devoted to her and is always watching out for her, and she thinks she knows everything in the world," said Bartnick. "She's always talking about her philosophies of life. And she's in love with Linus and calls him her 'Sweet Baboo.'"
Bartnick loves her role and says she's learned a great deal from the more-experienced actors in the cast. She said Sally is "out loud and out there and thinks the world is her stage, but I'm quieter — sometimes."
Jesse Leahy, 16, plays Linus — complete with blue, knit blanket, striped shirt and thumb in his mouth. "Linus is smart for his age, but still hasn't grown up, so he can't live without his security blanket," said Leahy. "It's fun because I get to go back to being a little kid, and I like being the wise one."
Courtney Reed, 17, portrays Peppermint Patty, a baseball-playing tomboy in love with Charlie Brown, who she calls "Chuck." She's not too smart, but her friend Marcie is. Courtney likes her role because "I don't have to be all dainty — I can clomp around the stage and be loud and boisterous."
She also thinks it's a hoot that she has to gaze longingly at Derek Rommel, playing Charlie, since they're good friends in real life. But, said Reed, "I would never think of him this way."
Piano-plunking Schroeder is played by K.C. O'Malley, 15. "He's down-to-earth, and I'm interested in music, too, so it's like typecasting. And I like the play and have made lots of new friends."
Karen Wooley, 15, plays Marcie, who follows Peppermint Patty around and calls her "Sir." Wooley says Marcie "likes to make little jokes and takes her perspective on life seriously, although no one else does."
Other cast members include Abbie Isaac as Frieda, Natalie Chicas as Francine and Courtney Knickerbocker as Violet, as well as: Bobby Dunne, Adam Rolfe, Brian Herzer, Erin Avery, Ashley Ford, Brittney Lapham, Suzanna Ramsey, Bethany Morris, Sammy Luffy and Emily Brown.
Assistant technical director, Daniel Triggs, 16, helped with the sets — a playground with swingset, Snoopy's doghouse and Lucy's psychiatric-advice stand. His favorite part was making the periacktoi — three-sided scenery sections featuring paintings of the characters. "By the end of this week, we should have our entire set together," he said. "It'll be really eye-catching and bright."